Comcast clients get digital push


July 08, 2008|By DAN THANH DANG


Michael Baehr wrote in to say that Comcast informed him last month that if he wants to continue receiving the four Washington-area stations affiliated with major networks - WRC-4, WTTG-5, WJLA-7 and WUSA-9 - he will have to switch to digital.

"I am perfectly happy with my current arrangement, but there is no choice to continue it after July 9, 2008," Baehr said. "Comcast offers an 'Upgrade to Comcast Digital Preferred Free for 90 days.' Of course, after the 90 days are up, the standard fee will apply. I consider this a rather roundabout way for Comcast to increase their prices. It will not be long until this company will do away with all non-digital service in order to reap more profits."

The A:

I'm not sure there was a question here, but from checking with Comcast, there are some changes afoot.

The cable company says it is moving out-of-market Washington stations from analog to digital service in Howard and Carroll counties.

The four Washington network stations will move to digital in Howard this week and Carroll later this summer. The changes will not affect the local Baltimore TV stations, Comcast spokesman Aimee Metrick said.

So Baehr is right.

"It is important to note for your readers that a majority of Comcast customers already have digital cable and will continue to receive the out-of-market Washington, D.C., broadcast TV channels without doing anything," Metrick said.

"For analog customers, Comcast is making it easy and inexpensive to get a digital box without any need to change level of service. Analog customers in Howard and Carroll counties can maintain their current level of service and just add digital equipment for $3.95 each/per month," she explained.

Cost-wise, analog customers with Full Standard service can upgrade to Comcast's Digital Starter service for the same price they're paying now for Full Standard, which is $57.95. The first digital box is included in the rate. Any additional boxes you need will cost you $3.95 each, per month.

The changes are not related to the federally required broadcast digital television transition, Metrick said, adding that "neither Comcast nor any other cable provider is responsible for this broadcast signal change."

If you are already a cable customer, the digital switch will not affect you regardless of the level of cable service you subscribe to.

For those who don't know, the federally required digital switch will require all television signals to be broadcast digitally, rather than in an analog format, after Feb. 17, 2009. Those who subscribe to cable, satellite or other television services won't need to convert their signal.

Metrick said the Howard and Carroll changes are designed to help Comcast bring new programming and high-definition (HD) choices to digital customers. As an example, Metrick said, Comcast is launching five new high-def channels in those counties, including ABC Family HD, Disney HD, WGN HD, WUTB (My Network) HD and Science Channel HD.

Reach Consuming Interests by e-mail at consuminginterests@ or by phone at 410-332-6151. Find an archive of Consuming Interest columns at Read the blog at baltimore

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